Posted on Monday, 9 August 1999
Elizabeth Bennet shivered a little as the chill of the early morning penetrated her light night gown. She put on a light shawl and sat down at the small table. Looking into a hand mirror, she sighed with a mixture of melancholy and nausea.
She smiled wryly to herself. The causes of both were easy to discern - a small party held in her honour the night before. The nausea she put down to the wine, the melancholy to the fact that the party was for her fortieth birthday and that the only members of her family there, were Jane's two eldest children, and the only reason they were there was because she, Aunt Elizabeth, was their chaperone. She sighed again. Gone were the days when she needed such guardianship, now she was the maiden aunt.
Elizabeth pursed her lips determinedly. "Snap out of it!" She told herself. "You know that Jane and Kitty and Mary all have large families, and it is a long way to come, and as for Mama and Papa...." Her thoughts trailed off in misery. Her parents had both passed away years before.
She looked around at the outside, but could discern little in the greyness of the early dawn.
"I do not know," she thought. "It is not like me to mope so much. Is it because I have never married or had a family, and likely never will? If it is, then I can blame nobody but myself. After all, I refused Fitzwilliam Darcy twice. No, I have had family in abundance with all of my sisters' children! I should, on the whole not complain. Besides, being single has given me the opportunity to travel and write."
She smiled to herself a little proudly at having had two novels published, and having had some money for it. Not that she needed the money. Her uncle had engaged some lawyers to break the entail, and Mr Darcy had offered Mr Collins a valuable living in Derbyshire and the promise of promotion to Bishop, to ensure his cooperation.
"Another reason to be grateful to Mr Darcy," she thought.
She thus had the means to travel the countryside as she wished, and still was welcome to live with Jane and Charles any time that she wished. Indeed, she quite often saw Mr Darcy there, as he was as frequent a visitor as she. Her brow creased at the thought of Mr Darcy. He had never married, and that was a matter of regret to Elizabeth. She had come to know and admire the man, and she somehow felt guilty, as if it was his attachment to her, that would mean that Pemberley would have no heir.
She shook her head in dismissal of this treacherous thought. "Did the man not still have women throwing themselves at him and his fortune? Indeed, some of them young enough to be her daughters." Again, she felt a twinge. "Daughters? Lizzy, at forty and unmarried, you must face facts! You made your decision on that pathway to Meryton twenty years ago when Fitzwilliam asked for your hand a second time. There will be no sons or daughters for you!" She shivered, and drew the shawl closer round herself.
As if to banish such thoughts from her mind she tried to remember some of the enjoyable experiences she had had. She smiled as she remembered her first trip to Paris. She had met this elegant woman in one of the theatres, and upon finding out that she was a courtesan of some note, had applied to learn information about men and life in general, that as an unmarried English gentlewoman had been previously closed to her.
Of course, when she returned to England, she could not wait to bait Mr Darcy with her newly acquired knowledge. It seemed to work exceptionally well when he was in one of his 'stiff' moods.
Her reverie was interrupted rudely by a wave of nausea. She got up hurriedly mumbling "It must have been the wine!" and headed through the door for the chamberpot by the side of the bed.
Fitzwilliam Darcy roused himself from his own thoughts at Elizabeth's exclamation, and drew his dressing gown about him. He looked at Elizabeth's retreating back as she headed to the bedchamber, and then to the view of the Grand Canal that the balcony of the Palazzo afforded. The sun's early rays outlining the Venetian buildings and the long shadows of the gondolas. "Gondolas, gondolas, gondolas!"
"Yes!" He thought. "It must have been the wine - that delightful chianti three weeks back if I am not mistaken! Perhaps Pemberley will yet have an heir."
He lounged back, drinking in the Venetian dawn.